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The "Makeup" model of ASL acquisition in the age of instant gratification.

Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."
-- Ian Malcolm, a mathematician who specializes in a branch of mathematics known as "Chaos Theory" --played by Jeff Goldblum) in the movie "Jurassic Park."


Do you want to see how something is done? Anything? Everything?

Just do an online search and chances are that within second you will be watching a video of whatever it is you wish to see.

The internet is amazing in it's power to put information at your fingertips.

Including all kinds of information about sign language.

However it might be worth considering that just because you "can" do something doesn't mean you should.

For example "mouth morphemes."

Beginning level signers eventually become aware of special mouth movements that influence the meaning of signs. Sometimes those beginners even become fascinated with mouth morphemes.

Using the "power of the net" these beginners start seeking "learning materials" and "recorded examples" of mouth morphemes.

However perhaps a bit of caution might be a good idea?

Visualize with me for a moment a five-year-old notices that "mom" (or some other adult in the five-year-old's life) puts on "make-up."

The five-year-old may decide that "putting on makeup" is the thing to do and watch a video online and then "borrow" some of mom's makeup and start applying it -- with decidedly amusing and sometimes cartoonish results.

It would perhaps be better if the five-year-old were to instead focus on more age appropriate activities and wait at least until puberty and slumber parties before starting to dabble in the mystic arts of makeup.

Mouth morphemes are typically one of the "last" things a signer (on their way toward fluency) picks up and starts using. If a signer were to become fascinated with mouth morphemes and start trying them on for size while still making beginner-level mistakes in other signs it would seem cartoonish.

(Examples of beginner level mistakes might include doing the sign "SIGN" with "D" hands instead of "1" hands, or signing "NAMED (verb)" using a double movement (instead of the more appropriate (for a verb) single movement, or doing the PLUG-IN-[charge] sign when the APPLY-to sign is intended.)
A problem with learning Mouth Morphemes from non-context-rich sources (such as a video with a few English words subtitled underneath various morpheme examples) is that often the English label is overly broad and not "delimited." The word "delimited" here being used to mean that we need to delineate (list clearly) the limits of the English label.

In more simple terms: Just because a mouth morpheme has an English word under it doesn't mean that the morpheme and the English word actually mean the same things. It simply means that the two overlap enough in meaning that someone decided to apply an imperfect English label to the ASL morpheme.

Think of a square peg in a round hole. There are gaps. A morpheme might mean the English word "big" in five situations but NOT mean "big" in 100 other situations. Multiply that by 50 or so mouth morphemes and you are up to 5,000 potential mistakes which a beginner doesn't know they are making and won't know unless and until they either systematically learn each "limit" (each sign that a morpheme can't or shouldn't be used with) or have invested massive time in frequent, extended exposure to and interaction with Deaf native signers in authentic context-rich environments.

Let me state that again this way:

There is no existing 5,000-entry mouth morpheme reference book or online resource.

Until such a resource is developed, beginners have three choices:

1. Learn a bunch of mouth morphemes online. Use them (and abuse them) and look cartoonish.

2. Learn a bunch of mouth morphemes online and file them away so you'll recognize them when you see them.

3. Be patient and invest the thousands of hours needed to authentically acquire mouth morphemes.*


*(Actually combining 2 and 3 is a pretty approach)

* I think it is good to ask questions and we ALL learn from each-other's answers. Just be patient with yourselves while you keep putting in the work.

* Again, this post is not about any one individual.





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